Monday, February 28, 2011

Meatless Monday - Broccoli & Cauliflower Gratin

Sammit and I observe Meatless Monday, which is slightly ironic because I usually pick our meat CSA up on Mondays.

Broccoli & Cauliflower Gratin
adapted from Barefoot in Paris

1 head cauliflower, cut into large florets
1 head broccoli, cut into large florets
4 Tbs. butter (divided into 2 Tbs)
3 Tbs. AP flour
2 cups hot milk
Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp black better
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup grated baby swiss
1/2 cup grated muenster
1/4 cup bread crumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 375 (F).  Meanwhile, cook florets in a large pot of boiling salt water until tender but firm (5 min), drain.
  2. Add 2 cups of milk in a sauce pan.  Meanwhile, melt 2 Tbs of butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Add flour, stirring constantly for 2 minutes, making a rue.
  3. Pour hot milk into the rue and stir until it comes to a boil.  Boil, whisking constantly, until thickened.  Off the heat add a large pinch of salt, pepper, nutmeg and 1/2 cup of cheese.
  4. Pour about 1/3 of the sauce into the bottom of a baking dish, filling the dish with the drained florets.  Spread remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining cheeses and breadcrumbs.
  5. Drizzle 2 Tbs. melted butter of the top.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until browned.
Can be served hot or at room temp (read: a great make ahead meal).

Overheard at work #1

 Coworker, to 3 year old: "Wow, you drew a circle. And you drew another circle - good job!"
3 year old: "Actually, that one is an oval."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Time Budget

Image: Found on Fast Eddie, Origin: Unknown
For several years now I have tried to follow a schedule.  I simultaneously crave and rebel against structure.  Last year, I came across a flexible scheduling practice that has helped me greatly.  It provides enough structure to make me feel organized and yet it has the flexibility to allow me changes without feeling like they're failures.  It's called Time Budgeting.  It's similar to budgeting money (you don't schedule when and how you're going to spend every cent, but rather how much to spend in an allotted time - like a week or a month).

I have two Time Budgets - one for a weekday and one for an entire weekend.  I prioritize the important things like sleep.

Weekday Budget 24 Hours Total:
  • Sleep - 8 Hours
  • Hygiene - 30 min (10 - teeth & face, 10 - shower, 10 - misc.)
  • Food - 1.5 Hours (prep and consumption - 20 - breakfast, 20 - lunch, 50 - dinner)
  • Commute - 2 Hours (audio books make this "reading time")
  • Work - 7 Hours (+ 60 min lunch break; 40 for walking and a blog post)
  • Walking - 30 min (during lunch break)
  • House Care - 1 Hour (30 - chores/pick-up, 30 - unpacking)
  • Couple Time - 30 min (allotted to talk, snuggle, snog)
  • Screen Time - 1 Hour (T.V. or computer)
  • Grace Time - 2 Hours (nothing goes as planned)
Weekend Budget 48 Hours Total:
  • Sleep - 18 Hours
  • Hygiene - 1 Hour
  • Food - 3.5 Hours (menus, shopping, batch cooking, in addition to regulars)
  • Walking - 1 Hour (split up or longer walk)
  • Blogging - 1.5 Hours (prepping posts for later)
  • House Care - 3 Hours (playing catch-up, working on improvements, unpacking)
  • Couple Time - 2 Hours
  • Screen Time - 6 Hours (cooking shows, reader-catch-up, movies, etc.)
  • Free Time - 8 Hours (games, visiting with friends or family, garden prep, etc.)
  • Grace Time - 4 Hours
With this budget, I'm able to get a lot more done in the day without worrying about when I'm getting something done.  Once I hit 30 minutes of laundry or cleaning the kitchen, I leave it alone and pick up tomorrow.  The same goes for screen time or blogging.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Angie, over on Hippie Heart sent me a Stylish Blogger Award - no doubt for the recent blog make over ^_~ and because she's most likely my only reader.  I was listed among famous sites such as Gweneth Paltrow's GOOP. Thanks Angie!

The rules: 
1. Thanks and link back to the person who gave you the award
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3.Give the award to 15 other bloggers

Seven things:
  1. I was recently accepted to the University of Michigan's Masters in Social Work program (2nd in the country).  I'm interested in decreasing food insecurity in families and communities and increasing availability to quality low-cost produce, dairy and meat.
  2. I live with my husband of 5 months (partner for 8 years) and our two cats in my brother-in-law's house in a Detroit suburb. 
  3. Four things terrify me in life: 1) E.T. the extra-terrestrial, 2) Social or biological collapse resulting in a post-apocalyptic world akin to Cormac McCarthy's novel, "The Road" 3) Infertility, and 4) Snakes.  In that order.
  4. Several years ago I had a very popular blog (that was partly responsible for meeting my partner) and sometimes I feel as if I'm writing this blog in its shadow - though that concern is really just in my head.  I lost the site, most of the entries, and the desire to write when their server crashed in 2005.
  5. I took 4 years of Spanish in High School and 2 years of intensive Hindi in college.  I still know more Spanish than Hindi - Gracias Senora Roesselor and my apologies Pinderjeet-ji.
  6. I love to learn as much about a topic as I can but instead of turning that information or practice into a hobby, I move on to the next topic.  I...collect hobbies?
  7. I'd like to become self-sufficient enough to not have to go to a grocery store more than once a year.  I made a 5 year plan for this goal and I'm rounding into year 2.
 15 Stylish Bloggers:
  1. K & MK over at Stories from Plate to Fork
  2. Beth, aka Fake Plastic Fish
  3. The Co-opers at The Green Phone Booth
  4. The Ladies from Offbeat Mama
  5. Rachel at Small Notebook
  6. Sherry, John & Clara (aka the cutest people in the world) at Young House Love
  7. Kelly The Kitchen Kop
  8. Jenny at The Nourished Kitchen (Check out her awesome! classes).
  9. El at Fast Grow the Weeds
  10. Kate at Living the Frugal Life
  11. Susy at Chiot's Run (also co-op'd with Not Dabbling in Normal)
  12. Abby at New Urban Habitat
  13. Devin at Barefootnwild
  14. Steven, aka VUBOQ
  15. Donielle from Naturally Knocked Up

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sausage, Rice & Beans

This is a cheap and easy, but not fast, dinner.  I enjoy making dinners like this because I only use one dish, can catch up on some cooking shows and have leftovers for lunch the next day.


4 cups stock (any flavor or water)
2 cups brown rice
1 cups dried azuki beans (any bean is fine, but these cook around the same rate as rice, making it easier)
7 sausages, cut to 1 in pieces (adjust number for your audience - we used a pack of andouille chicken sausage from costco)
1 large can diced tomatoes (I use a quart of home canned)
1 can corn (I use a pint of home canned)
1 diced pepper (any pepper is fine, we used a Serrano with the seeds removed)
1/4 cup of taco seasoning

  1. Optional - soak rice & beans the night before in water with a Tbs. of acid (vinegar, whey, lemon juice, etc.) to break down some indigestibles.
  2. Bring stock or liquid to a boil in a large pan.  Add rice and beans and bring to a boil again before reducing the heat to as simmer.
  3. Add tomatoes (and juices), corn, pepper & seasoning.
  4. Add sliced sausages and let cook until rice and beans are tender.  Stir occasionally.

This takes a little longer than cooking brown rice - 45 minutes to an hour - so it's not a fast recipe.'s convenient.  I go into the living room and watch an episode of Jamie at Home or Dharma & Greg or Chuck's Day Off and I complete a new step during each commercial break, then make sure to check in on it and stir during each commercial break.  It's a really hands off dinner.  When we have the supplies, I like to serve it up with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, shredded cheese and a spoonful of sour cream.'s cheap.
  • 4 cups Stock: 0.00 (Homemade Chicken) to 3.99 (organic)
  • 2 cups Brown Rice: 1.33 (generic) to 3.59 (organic)
  • 1 cup Azuki Beans: 0.95 (bulk bin) to 1.25 (organic canned)
  • 7 Sausages:  2.66 (costco) to 6.99 (organic)
  • Diced tomatoes: 0.01 (garden from seed) to 1.99 (organic)
  • Corn: 0.01 (garden from seed) to 1.25 (organic)
  • Pepper: 0.01 (garden from seed) to 0.60 (organic)
  • Taco Seasoning - I'll throw in 0.10 for the seasoning

6 large servings - as little as 0.84 per serving, as much as 3.29 per serving for entirely organic/upscale ingredients.  A little more with the cheese/cilantro/sour cream addition.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Post-Nuptuals: The Wedding

Sammit and I were wedding'd on October 2nd 2010.  We were married on October 1 2010, but we were wedding'd the next day.  We had a big ceremony in a church (a wonderful all-accepting non-denominational church that let us include pro-gay-marriage lines in our service) with an officiant, 10 attendants, 6 ushers and a ring bearer.  Our officiant's name was Reverend Smith and he worked part time for the church; he was very nice and did a wonderful job with the ceremony we wrote.  Having attendants was a last minute decision - 1 month before the wedding.  My sister, Devin, served as my maid-of-honor.  I asked 4 other women who have had amazing impacts on my life - two I had the luck and pleasure to meet in High School, Stephany and Yolanda, and two in college, Monica and Lisa.  Sammit's brother, Sandeep served as his best man.  He asked 4 other men who have known him for decades - his friend since kindergarten, Mike, and elementary school, Jay and Brandt, and his cousin, Rishi.  I asked my close friend from college, John, and my cousin's sons, Max and Nate, to be Ushers on behalf of my family.  Sammit asked a trio of close friends, Pasterz, Brian and Derek on behalf of his family.  Sammit's delightful sister (Indian sister = 1st cousin) and her husband escorted their son, Neil, as our ring bearer.

Sammit arrived at the church in a carriage led by a white horse, surrounded by his friends and family in a musical uproar.  They came, dancing, with drums and chimes.  I could hear them when they were still blocks away, the anticipation was delightful.  When they arrived at the church I had to be out of sight, but I found places to peak.  My family and friends met his and the important players of our lives exchanged garlands of flowers (hand picked and strung the night before by myself, Monica, Lisa and John) and danced with each other.

Nate, one of the ushers, handed out programs or guides to our ceremony.  Max held a porcelain dish with our rings tied to it; he stood as guests held our rings in their hands blessed them for our happiness and long lives.  

We played string versions of Pixie songs, some of Sammit's favorites while guests were being seated.  He walked down the aisle the "Do You Realize" by the Flaming Lips.  My attendants walked down the aisle to the beginning of "You Raise Me Up" by Josh Groban; I walked down, with my mother and father on either side of me, to the reprise.  

Our ceremony was a combination of traditions.  Reverend Smith asked our parents to support us and asked our guests to stand as witnesses to not only our wedding but our marriage.  We acknowledged our differences and our 7 years together leading up to the wedding.  We lit candles to honor the memory of our grandparents and two of our uncles who passed.  We exchanged vows and our hands were fastened with a silk ribbon, a Celtic tradition nodding at an Indian tradition where the bride and groom are tied to each other.  We took seven steps around the fire made by our memorial candles, each step representing an Indian blessing, under a Mandap designed by my mother (that now sits in our back yard).  We exchanged rings.  We kissed.  There was no "giving away" or "honor and obey" there was no "man and wife."  We are equals.  We make public note that we affirmed the rights of every person to be married under the law and "when all individuals have the same rights to marriage and family, then we shall fully rejoice in marriage knowing that love is honored equally where ever it resides."  We left the church to "Say Hey, I Love You" by Michael Fronti and Spearhead.

We left in the carriage Sammit brought to the church and enjoyed a ride around the city before entering our reception (to AC/DC's "Back in Black").  We had delicious food, so I've heard.  Sammit and I put together a photobooth with props and printing.  Our guests used copies of their photos to make a scrapbook guest log.  Our cake was wonderful.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February - The Great Declutter

January was the month for food changes.  Sammit and I spent three weeks on an eliminate/challenge diet to see if I had a dietary intolerance.  It seems that I do - but there may be more than one culprit.  I've scheduled an appointment with a new physician who is known around these parts for dealing holistically with food problems - but she's also a licensed DO (my ND cannot be licensed in this state, Michigan Law) which means my insurance will cover visits with her.

We aren't ending our food changes now that January is over.  Last night while working on February's goals, Sammit and I cleaned our pantry of foods we won't be keeping in the house anymore (white/wheat pastas, cereals, canned tuna fish with soy in it (?), that year old Duncan Hines cake mix).  Anything that hasn't been used and is within the expiration date is being donated at the bin in our food co-op.  The rest is going into the compost bin.  I will continue to push changes, learn new recipes, and accept that an all-or-nothing perfectionist attitude won't get me anywhere.

February is the month for the Great Declutter.  Clearing out our cupboards was a good start.  We also finally moved the bookcases from the hallways to their appropriate locations (the basement and our bedroom).  We also cleaned out all the our bedroom closets and rearranged the dining room.  Right now I have 2 large boxes to give to the Salvation Army with more on the way.

Reducing clutter has always been a difficult process for me, a genetic pack-rat, so I'm taking it in layers.  This first two weeks is devoted to clearing out household items that we obviously don't need anymore (or shouldn't've had in the first place) and getting rooms organized and finally unpacked from the move.  The second two weeks will revolve around a second pass on rooms and should be the actual meat-and-bones of the Great Declutter.

Some guidelines that are keeping me focused:

1) Two things out for every one in.
Meaning, for everything I bring into the house (a shirt, some markers, a picture album from my mom's house) I must put two things into the donation box/trash can/recycle bin.  While I'd like to think the two things going out will be comparable to the one coming in, in reality it will most likely start as, "Oh I bought this pair of jeans, here, I'll recycle this magazine (1) and throw out this gum wrapper (2)."  But progress is progress.

2) It must be functional or beautiful.
Meaning everything in the house must serve a function or bring beauty to the house.  Bonus points for items that do both, like our brown and tan embroidered curtains, or porcelain white cat statue in our  bathroom that holds our toilet brush, or our house plants that add a gorgeous green to rooms and clean our air.

3) It deserves a better home.
 This is used for items that have literally traveled with me from city to city from my childhood home, primarily crafting supplies.  If I haven't found a use for that fabric since I bought it in 1997, I need to donate it so that someone who has the time for it can make it into something beautiful (or functional), instead of lingering in a large plastic tub in the crawl space.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

No 'poo

About 3 months ago I read a few articles on going "No 'poo."  There is a subset of people who don't use shampoo or conditioner but instead take up a method calling no 'poo.  I was intrigued and concerned.  I was under the impression that after an initial transition period of a few weeks, no 'poo-ers stopped washing their hair all together.  While no 'poo-ers often don't wash their hair as frequently, some once a week - some even longer, they still clean their hair.  Once I pieced that together, it was a lot easier for me to get on board.

I became a no 'poo-er just before my wedding.  I fell off the wagon for a month or so, but after having poor reactions to some aveda hair products (horrible dandruff, oily hair) I've returned.  I didn't have a transition period the first or second time I went no 'poo.  My hair responded very well immediately, though I think I was rewarded with others' trial and error.

For sham-poo and conditioner I used two spouted bottles from our co-op.  It took a little while to get used to not having a lather of suds crowned on my head, but now I don't think about it. No 'poo as often as you need.  I started every other day, now I can do this twice a week and my hair stays clean.  My dandruff has gone away. 

Sham-poo: 1 part baking soda: 8 parts water
Conditioner: 1 part white vinegar (or apple cider): 6 parts water, + a vanilla pod or a cinnamon stick (or both!)

1) Wet hair in the shower.
2) Keeping spout close to your scalp, saturate your head with baking soda mixture; rinse.
3) Keeping spout close to your scalp, saturate your head with vinegar mixture; rinse.